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Fame comes back to Tigard woman, 51, in form of magazine feature

Debra Gilmour took home the crown for Mrs. Oregon International, and her rise to stardom was recently featured in a new book published by MORE Magazine
by: Geoff Pursinger Debra Gilmour became the oldest woman to be named Mrs. Oregon and went on to win the national Beauties of America pageant in 2009. Her story is now featured in a new book by MORE magazine.

TIGARD - At 51, Debra Gilmour said she wasn't a 'typical contestant' for a beauty pageant.

But in 2008, the Tigard resident took home the crown for Mrs. Oregon International, and her rise to stardom was recently featured in a new book published by MORE Magazine.

The book, titled '287 Secrets to Reinventing Your Life,' was published in September. The book is a compilation of stories of women overcoming obstacles to changing their lives.

'It was an honor to be selected for the book,' Gilmour said. 'I felt honored and humbled to have that story be something they felt was compelling enough to tell . . . To think that something I did, someone else is observing that and saying, 'maybe I can do that, too.''

Gilmour said it was turning 50 that inspired her to run for the Mrs. Oregon Invitiational pageant.

'All of my friends were dreading turning 50,' she remembered. 'They were talking about facelifts and I thought, 'We can either look forward to it or really hate it. It is going to happen whether you want it to or not so why not embrace it? Why not look for something fun?'

Having competed in pageants in her 20s, Gilmour decided to enter the 2008 Mrs. Oregon International Pageant. The pageant was mostly an excuse for her to get into shape, she said, and she never expected to win.

'I remember being on that stage at Mrs. Oregon and the girl behind me was younger than my youngest child,' she said. 'I was competing with 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds. I had no grand illusions about winning.'

Gilmour not only won that Mrs. Oregon International pageant, she went on to win the national Beauties of America pageant in her age group.

A longtime subscriber of the women's lifestyle magazine, Gilmour was first contacted by the magazine in 2009, when she received an email asking if she had a story of people who reinvented themselves.

Gilmour wrote back describing her experience, and her story was featured on the magazine's website.

Now an expanded version of her story has been published in the magazine's book about reinvention and self-discovery.

'I am really happy with it,' Gilmour said. 'When the book came out I remember holding it and thinking 'I really did do this,' and to have other people know it and have it go out to bookstores, that was kind of an awe-inspiring feeling. There are a lot of people who might actually read this.'

Gilmor said at first she didn't see how her story could be inspiring to people.

'Why would anyone be interested in my story? OK, I lost some weight, and the stars aligned and I won,' she said.

But Gilmour has heard from women who say that her story has inspired them to make a change in their lives and embrace getting older.

'All of a sudden, you realize it's such a big thing,' she said. 'How you can influence other people and how telling your story does make a difference for others . . . It can be positive for someone you don't even know, and that is really compelling and humbling.'

Gilmour said she thinks of her story as being fairly mundane compared to some of the other stories in the book, but she feels her story is relatable to a lot of people.

'A lot of women my age face a whole new set of circumstances,' she said. 'They've gone through divorce, making job changes, all those things. You go from being a full-time mom and then - boom - my kids are both gone.

'I was asking myself how do I define my life now? So much of my life had been defined as being a mom, so now how do I define me? That's what the book talks about, ways to reinvent yourself and redefine yourself.'

The book, 'MORE Magazine 287 Secrets of Reinventing Your Life' is on bookstands now.